"It used to be that whenever you mentioned wallpaper, people thought busy floral patterns, cutesy country images or fussy Victorian prints—whatever they saw in the grandmother's house growing up. Today, with its new textures, natural colors and subtle design, wallpaper is fast becoming the interior decorating product of choice," says interior designer Kimberly Fosterling.
After a decade of painted faux finishes, designers and homeowners are rediscovering wallpaper. New designs, rich textures and colors not found in the paint pallet are offering greater choices for consumers to express their personal style. Even traditional florals, stripes and country toiles have been updated with rich hues like brick red, olive green and soft neutrals.
"Today my clients want to create a comfortable home environment that suits their lifestyle and expresses their personalities," explains Fosterling. "People today don't want to furnish their homes; they want to decorate them. They want a certain look. Wallpaper is the decorator touch that pulls a room together and gives it personality."
Although wallpaper color trends are influenced by the fashion industry, wall covering designs are dictated more by natural elements found in the environment. This translates into decorating styles that echo the soothing elements of nature and draw inspiration direct from the environment.
"Today's designs are drawing heavily on nature's elements and colors," says Joan Hughes, senior designer/stylist, Gloria Merrill Enterprises. "We're seeing more use of leaf patterns, flowers and fruit in current designs. Today's wallpaper incorporates an earthy, natural, soothing feeling for the home."
Many of today's styles not only borrow from nature, they actually look like nature. Granite and stone papers look so real, you have to touch them to determine what they are made from. Other papers copy wood veneer or use real wood, and natural fibers like grass are being woven into patterns.
WALLPAPER FOR THE SPIRIT
As today's consumers continue to lead hectic lifestyles, they are incorporating a softer, more relaxed ambiance in their homes in order to create a feeling of comfort. People are looking for a balance between their high-tech world and their spiritual self. As a result, gone are ornate and formal decorating styles in lieu of styles that are more relaxed, playful and individual. Neutralization of color and simplification of form to match this spirituality are elements being incorporated in the wallpaper industry.
But don't translate neutral to mean beige and boring. Today's neutrals consist of complex colorings, with layers of color or tone-on-tone effects to create a serene, relaxing setting using any color of the rainbow. Wallpaper also can play with the effects of light, creating multi-dimensional effects of matte over shiny and light over dark finishes. Even beige gets a lift with new tones and optic shifts to create an ethereal and sophisticated atmosphere.
Another trend in today's market is the use of ethnic influences. "We're seeing a lot of Asian art being used in the current designs. This includes bamboo, calligraphy, and pagodas in both wallpaper and home furnishings," says Cynthia Pasternack, senior designer/stylist, Quality Wallcoverings, Inc.
BACK TO BASICS
"We're seeing a back to the basics style emerging in home decorating," says Edna Stern, president, Jolie Papier, Ltd. "Wallpaper should be used as a background statement, in a home. They are used to enhance a room, not take it over. No longer confined to borders or accent walls, entire rooms—entire homes—layered in wallpaper is stylish today."
"You can do so much with wallpaper, especially with today's textured papers," explains Fosterling. "You can wallpaper 'as is' or cut it into different shapes and hang it in blocks for a spectacular, yet subtle, effect.
"There are also anaglypic papers (heavily embossed white paper) that you can finish to your exact specifications. All these options don't even take into consideration the growth of hand-finished and custom papers consumers can actually design themselves."
Texture is also an important trend in the wallpaper market. Designers are layering textures to create multi-look patterns and are experimenting with new textures such as cork. These types of wallpapers, often called "architectural" papers are a designer's and home decorator's dream.
"Textured wallpaper works in any environment, from cutting edge to traditional. It's also a great way to transition your home from one decorating scheme to another. This is great news for consumers who have bought an older home and want to change its interior style, or for those who want to update their look and not spend a fortune," says Stacy Senior, marketing manager, Thibaut. "We're seeing more subtle textures in wallpaper patterns and clean, white backgrounds to highlight the texture."
"Wallpaper trends move slowly which allow consumers to take advantage of old and new styles," says Fosterling. "Today's wallpaper choices offer something for everyone—from traditional, to contemporary, to retro to classic. So if you want your home to mirror the excitement of the new century, you can customize your wallpaper to convey every emotion. With so much to offer, wallpaper is back—and here to stay."
The Wallcoverings Association is an industry trade show representing manufacturers, distributors and suppliers. It is based in Chicago, IL, (312) 644-6610; fax: (312) 527-6705; www.wallcoverings.org.